07 April, 2012

How to knead flat-bread dough (Roti/paranthe ka aata goondna). Traditional method.

What could be complex about something that looks like this? 
It is exactly that simple.

Ingredients: There are only two (three, if you count the dash of salt).

Wholewheat flour: - (as required) and 
Water: - (as required)

Salt - optional (say 1/2 tsp per cup - or to taste)

TIP: A very rough estimate can be 15-20ml of flour to a roti (small and thin) or double that for a parantha. I use a 60ml measure that makes 4-5 rotis, or 2-3 paranthas.  Again, this is very broadly speaking; - in practice there is a huge variation in sizes and thicknesses, from household to household, and sometimes even within each, depending on the accompaniment - for example, curries with thinner gravies or dals go better with thicker rotis. A couple of trials will soon establish how much you might actually need or prefer.

The flour (and salt, if using) gets placed in a large shallow bowl (called Paraat in Hindi) - or any similar bowl large enough to work around in.

I've used coarsely-ground, organic wholemeal flour and added a half teaspoon of salt, which is apparently good for digestion (paachan). 
Rotis are perfectly fine without salt, though I'd miss it in a parantha, especially if eaten plain. But that's just me.

Take some regular drinking/cooking water.....

And add a small quantity into the flour.

Mix the two well, using either your hand or, initially, a spoon/fork.

Keep adding the water, a little at a time, until it all comes together. Mash it well, using the collected dough to sponge off any flour or water still in the bowl.
If you were using the spoon/fork, at some point midway you might have found it necessary to switch to using your hand.

The dough needs to be soft and pliable, but not too slack and not too hard. Typically, the dough of regular oven-baked bread loaves is much more slack by comparison.

A little more water will get easily absorbed at this stage if the dough is too hard, or some extra sprinkle of flour can be worked in if it is too slack. Such adjustments will not be very efficient at a later stage. Although refrigerating a slack dough will help make it easier to work with, as a remedial measure.

Once the flour and water are well mixed, it can be kneaded.

And why should it be kneaded, you might ask, it looks pretty much ready, doesn't it?

1. You don't have to, of course. I've used dough that's at this stage and it works, although the rotis/paranthas tend to be a bit "brittle" - meaning pieces will "break off" more than "tear off".  But that's ok if you're in a 'tearing' hurry, or simply can't be bothered to do any further.

2. Or, you could just leave it to sit a half hour or longer (covering with a damp muslin or an inverted bowl) and let time do the job.  Which, by the way, is to make the dough more elastic by kneading ('working' the dough develops the protein called gluten and makes it a stretchy network.)

3. Or, you could just knead it.  It will make your job easier and provide nicer rotis.  Besides, it's one of the simple pleasures (almost therapeutic) in the kitchen to use your hands to do something like this and actually feel the texture changing.

Just pick up one end of the dough and fold it back over itself using your fingers and press it down using the 'heel' of your palm. Give the bowl a quarter turn, and repeat this action. 

Keep repeating this action over and over,  - with a little pummeling now and then, if you like, - until

the dough takes on a fine, silky appearance. Ideally let this "sit" for a while, say at least fifteen minures to half an hour or so, covered with a damp muslin or an inverted bowl.

And you're good to go.

Positively beaming!



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